As a church we have navigated our way through the chapters and challenges of the Covid pandemic with considerable care, resilience and patience. As the Government restrictions in force at various stages, along with the associated guidance from the Church of England, have altered, we have reflected carefully on our approach so that as many people as possible can feel as safe as possible and be reassured in attending our various services.
I want to begin by thanking you as a congregation for the way that we have gone about this – for some this has felt like a long and rather frustratingly slow process, for others the cautious approach, when compared to most other local churches, has been very welcome.
We do feel that now is the time to adjust our approach further and, following discussions at our P.C.C. meeting on Wednesday 4th May, the following arrangements will come into effect from Sunday 15th May onwards:
Health and hygiene
We will continue to have hand sanitiser available at the entrances to the building and we invite people to use this as they arrive and leave if they wish to. If you feel unwell or have any Covid symptoms, please do not come to church.
Face masks optional throughout
Until now, whilst wearing a face mask has not been mandatory for a long while, we have encouraged members of the congregation to wear one when attending services. Going forward we do not expect members of the congregations to wear a face covering. However, if you prefer to wear one when coming to services then please feel free to continue to do so. It is entirely up to you and whatever choice you make will be fine and will happen without comment.
Some social distancing still available
We will continue to offer some social distancing for those who wish to be a little further apart from other worshippers. This will be in the north aisle of the church. Some of the chairs will return to the south aisle to increase capacity but some social distancing will be available there also.
Ventilation in the church until the Autumn
The church heating is now turned off and the doors to the link and the main church door will be left open during services, weather permitting, to aid ventilation.
Sharing the Peace
This doesn’t apply at the 8 am service but at the 9.30 am service we have missed sharing the peace. And so we suggest that this could be shared in a restrained way with those in your immediate vicinity if you wish to. It should be perfectly obvious from posture and body language to gauge whether somebody is comfortable to do this with a handshake; I suggest not hugging and kissing please!
If people would prefer to continue to share the peace with a sign or gesture rather than by touch then that is absolutely fine. I suspect that as we often sit close to many of the same people, we will quickly work out how people wish to share the peace and we’ll be able to do this without fuss or awkwardness.
Again, this is an element of the service that many of us have missed. The symbolism of the elements being brought forward along with the collection is a sign of the offering we make to God as a congregation. At the 8 am service we invite the sidesperson to bring forward the collection plate that has received any loose plate offering as people arrive for the service.
At the 9.30 am service we will also receive the elements of bread and wine and water and then the two collecting plates as the offertory hymn is being sung. Of course, in terms of the stewardship giving we expect that there will be only a modest amount in the collecting plates as we encourage all regular worshippers to be a part of our planned giving scheme and give by standing order. Please speak to Jim May in confidence about this is you haven’t set up your stewardship giving yet.
Finally, we would like to offer members of the congregation the choice to receive the wine at communion once again. This is a matter of free personal choice and some will be naturally cautious about doing this whilst others will be very happy to have the chance to receive ‘in two kinds’ once again.
At both the 8 am and 9.30 am services we will continue to distribute communion at a standing station and those who wish to receive from the chalice can do so by moving just to the right after you have received the host (the bread). Those who do not wish to receive from the chalice can just move past and circulate back to your place as we do currently. What will not be permitted is intinction (dipping the wafer in the wine) as this is not authorised in this Diocese and brings a higher risk of droplets and fingers entering the wine than when we receive the wine orally.
We will continue to offer our 9.30 am service outside whenever the weather allows up to and including our Patronal Festival at 11 am on 11 September
We hope that these changes will be welcome and we look forward to our services in the coming weeks and months. If you have any questions or concerns about any of this then do please get in touch and discuss these with Will in confidence.